From Michelle Krowl at the Library of Congress:
I wanted to let you know about three Civil War-related collections in the
Manuscript Division that have recently been digitized and posted to the Library
of Congress website. They are chock full of primary source material that may be
helpful for classroom use, student papers, scholarly articles, dissertations,
books, or just for general interest.
Each collection can be accessed in several ways. Each has its own online
presentation site, but can also be accessed through online collection finding
aids that are available in html and pdf format. (Sometimes it can be easier to
find specific items or types of material through the finding aids.) Original
materials can be found through the “Collection Items” tab in the online
presentation, and the “Digital Content Available” links in the container lists
of the finding aids. All of the collection material is the same regardless of
how it is accessed, but two of the online presentations have additional essays,
as well as updated related resources.
When you open up the web page with bibliographic information for that set of
original materials, you’ll want to either click on the photo of the item
(sometimes it is a photo of the file folder) or the “enlarge xx images” link
under the photo (both are on the left side of the page). Both will launch the
viewer through which the material can be seen.
The new online collections are:
CLARA BARTON PAPERS
Clara Barton achieved historical fame as a nurse during the Civil War, as an
international relief worker following the war, and as the founder of the
American Red Cross in 1881. All of these activities are reflected in Barton’s
extensive collection of personal papers. Of particular interest to students of the
Civil War is Barton’s correspondence with family members like Martha Elvira
Stone, the pocket diaries in which she noted the names of soldiers she
encountered in hospitals, records of the Office of Correspondence with the
Friend of the Missing Men of the U. S. Army, documents relating to the
identification of Union soldiers buried at the Confederate prison of
Andersonville, and Barton’s war lectures.
Online presentation Finding aid in html Finding aid in pdf
GRESHAM FAMILY MATERIAL IN LEWIS H. MACHEN FAMILY PAPERS
The Gresham material in the Lewis H. Machen Family Papers includes family
correspondence before, during and after the Civil War. The highlight of this
section of the collection is the seven Civil War-era diaries kept by LeRoy
Wiley Gresham from 1860 to his death in June 1865. LeRoy, a native of Macon,
Georgia, kept a diary entry nearly every single day of the war, beginning when
he was about 13 and ending at his death at the age of 17. He notes what news he
is hearing, the prices of things purchased for him, and generally what life is
like for a teenager on the home front during the war. The reason LeRoy does not
enlist in the Confederate army is that he was a long-time invalid, and the
diaries also reflect the symptoms of his health problems (the exact origin of
which are not specified) and what remedies he uses for treatment and pain
Online presentation Finding aid in html Finding aid in pdf (Containers 29-32)
CHARLES WELLINGTON REED PAPERS
The papers of Civil War soldier and artist Charles Wellington Reed, who
served with the Ninth Independent Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery,
includes approximately seven hundred sketches and correspondence relating
primarily to the Civil War. The letters are often prefaced by drawings which
further illustrate not only the rigors of military life, but also the amusing
and mundane aspects. The contents of the letters and corresponding sketches
well document the ways in which soldiers adapted to seasonal changes in the
weather, how they amused themselves, and the routines of camp life in the Army
of the Potomac.
Online presentation Finding aid in html Finding aid in pdf
Other collections with manuscript materials are available at: http://www.loc.gov/manuscripts/collections/,
while the legacy collections still part of the American Memory portal are available at: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
One of a string of battles in Sherman's Campaign for Atlanta, this July 22, 1864 clash is the only one called the Battle of Atlanta. The Civil War Forum toured the field on 2008. Below are photos of the approximate sites where a general officer on each side was killed—the Union's James Birdseye McPherson, and on the Confederate side, William H. T. Walker. Four days after the battle, Sherman wrote home to his wife Ellen, "I lost my right bower in McPherson."
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
"In an ongoing revisionist history effort, Southern schools and churches still pretend the war wasn't about slavery"
The Southern version of history also prevailed for decades at Civil War battle sites, thanks to the fact that Congress appropriated money for the National Park Service, and Southerners in Congress had their hands on the purse strings. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the Park Service—under pressure from the academic community and a few members of Congress—made it a priority to revamp its exhibits to “interpret [the Civil War] and the causes of the war based on current scholarship,” said Dwight Pitcaithley, a professor of history at New Mexico State University who was chief historian of the Park Service from 1995 to 2005. In December 2008, Pitcaithley gave a talk to public school educators in Mississippi, and used as part of his presentation this quote from the Mississippi Declaration of Secession: “Our cause is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery, the greatest material interest of the world.” That sentence is now prominently displayed on the wall of the National Park Service visitors’ center in Corinth, Mississippi, near the site of the battle of Shiloh. Pitcaithley took a picture of the display and used it in his presentation. After his talk, he was chatting with a thirty-four-year-old black school principal who had grown up in Mississippi, attended its public schools, and received his university education there. “I asked him if he’d ever seen that [quote] and he said no—he’d never even heard of that.”Read the full article here:
Monday, June 09, 2014
What’s with Confederate reenactors and the matter-of-fact denial of slavery’s central role in bringing about the American Civil War? Not a month goes by, it seems, without a news item quoting a reenactor expounding along those lines. Incredibly, they don’t settle for simply diminishing the role of slavery, as some apologists are wont to do. No, frequently they’ll proclaim that the war had nothing to do with slavery whatsoever.
It’s astonishing, and sad, that 150 years after the war, with all of the resources at our disposal, all of the painstakingly researched histories of that era, all of the primary source material that is increasingly being digitized and made accessible, we still have people putting forth this long-discredited, neo-Confederate fantasy.
Like the modern day holocaust denier, one must make a determined and willful effort to ignore or discount a great mountain of evidence to arrive at such a misguided conclusion. Even blinders allow a horse to see what’s in front of it, but the slavery-as-cause denier rejects even that.
It’s one thing to tell a reporter, as this reenactor did in Florida recently, "If people know their history, the Civil War has nothing to do with slavery." Discriminating readers can dismiss this nonsense as effortlessly as we dismiss “birthers.” But taking this alternate history into a classroom should not be so easily dismissed. It is an affront to education, and should be refuted.
Most recently I encountered an article about a Confederate reenactor who gave a brief “lecture” to a class of 8th graders in a Santa Clara, California middle school. I knew instinctively as soon as I saw the photo of the gray-clad rebel in a classroom that the article would put forth the great Lost Cause lie. And sure enough, it did.
Said the reenactor: “Most kids say the reason the Civil War happened was because of slavery, and I tell them it wasn’t. The war was about 11 states that wanted to leave the union, and it was about the attack on Fort Sumter.”
Never mind that the lawful governments of two of those states did not vote to leave the union. Never mind that the reason the other slave states wanted to leave the Union was that they saw it as the only way to preserve and perpetuate slavery.
How do we know this? We know this because the secessionists themselves told us that.
Confederates of the day made no bones about this. They were forthright and unabashed about their motivations. Strange then, that people who today dress up like pretend Confederates have come up with an interpretation contrary to that of the secessionists themselves.
I defy any one of them to sit down and read Charles Dew’s, Apostles of Disunion. The first states to secede sent ambassadors to the other slave states to try to convince them to secede. Here we have Southerners speaking to each other in their own words. Their unmistakable message is that the only “state right” under consideration was the right to maintain and perpetuate slavery.
Professor David W. Blight, in his essay, “One Rebel State Never Surrendered: Denial — Confederates’ Own Words Condemn Their Cause,” wrote:
“The best way to understand why secession and war came in 1860-61 is to look at what white Southerners themselves said they were doing. How did the leaders of secession explain the origins of the war?
South Carolina's "Declaration of Causes" justifying secession included the claim that the Republican Party would "take possession of the government the South shall be excluded from the common territory and a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States."Blight also quoted John Mosby, the legendary “Gray Ghost,” who said after the war, “"I always understood that we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about. I never heard of any other cause of quarrel than slavery."
Texas secessionists proclaimed their greatest fear in the crisis as "the abolition of slavery" and "the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races."
In Mississippi, secessionist delegates unanimously announced that their "position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery." The Mississippians declared that they "must either submit to degradation and the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union."
Georgians agreed, accusing "abolitionists and their allies in the Northern states" of "efforts to subvert our institutions, and to incite insurrection and servile war among us."
That pretty well sums it up.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
|Gene Salecker at Vicksburg's Sultana mural|
My wife and I visited Vicksburg last month for the annual meeting of the Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends. Next year we’ll meet in Marion, Arkansas for the 150th anniversary of the Sultana disaster.
It was a great pleasure to finally meet two authors who’ve written important works on the subject. Gene Salecker wrote what most consider the definitive study in, Disaster on the Mississippi, the Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865. Gene was our guide for the weekend, taking us to the site of Camp Fisk, where former Union POWs from Cahaba and Andersonville, Midwesterners, were processed for parole. Much of the area where Camp Fisk was situated remains undeveloped and bucolic. Once paroled, the soldiers were taken by train to the Vicksburg depot, from whence they hiked to the wharf and boarded steamboats for the trip home. The floodwall at Vicksburg boasts 32 murals depicting scenes from the town’s history, including the fateful boarding of over 2,000 Union soldiers onto the Sultana.
It was also a treat to meet author Alan Huffman (with Anne, at right), whose book, Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison,and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History, features Anne’s ancestor, Romulus Tolbert of the 8th Indiana Cavalry. In a bit of geographical schizophrenia, Alan splits time between his exceedingly quiet and lovingly restored old home in rural Mississippi, and an apartment in New York City. Alan has written some intriguing books on a broad array of subjects, which you can read about here.
Three other books round out the respectable Sultana bookshelf. First, Jerry Potter’s outstanding, The Sultana Tragedy: America’s Greatest Maritime Disaster (Jerry also wrote the main article in "Blue and Gray" magazine’s Sultana issue –August 1990, vol. vii, issue 6). William O. Bryant’s contribution, from the University of Alabama Press, is Cahaba Prison and the Sultana Disaster, a fine, fast-moving, and well-documented narrative. And finally, an all-important collection of first-person accounts by survivors – recently reprinted in an attractive edition by the University of Tennessee Press in their “Voices of the Civil War” series – Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors, by Chester D. Berry.
There are a couple of lesser books on the subject, including the flawed Transport to Disaster, by James W. Elliott and, if I’m not mistaken, some historical fiction.
More urgently, there is still 7 days to go in the Kickstarter campaign to fund a Sultana documentary. Frodo’s friend Samwise (Sean Astin) has signed on as Executive Producer. Go here to see a little taste of what the documentarians are cooking up.